Objective: To formulate recommendations for the role of corticosteroid therapy in the management of childhood asthma.
Data sources: The recommendations are based on a review of the available literature and a variety of review articles on the efficacy and safety of corticosteroid therapy supplemented by personal experience in managing children with asthma.
Data synthesis: 1. Preventive therapy. Sodium cromoglycate should be considered first-line treatment. Inhaled corticosteroids are indicated in children who fail to achieve control on this therapy or those with severe disease. An initial dosage of 400-600 micrograms/day is recommended with subsequent variation in dosage related to clinical response. Large volume spacers can be used to improve aerosol delivery and minimise side effects. Indications for specialist assessment include: use of inhaled corticosteroids in children under 3 years of age; the requirement for high dose therapy (greater than 600 micrograms/day); or the need for regular oral corticosteroids. 2. Acute severe asthma. Systemic corticosteroid therapy is a valuable adjunct in the treatment of acute severe asthma and can be used safely in the short term. The efficacy of high dose inhaled corticosteroids in the management of acute severe asthma requires further evaluation. The need for systemic corticosteroid therapy signals the need for reassessment of that child's usual maintenance therapy.
Conclusion: These recommendations are presented as a guide to the use of corticosteroid therapy in childhood asthma. In the individual child, the benefits of therapy need to be weighted against the possible risks, with the aim of maintaining good asthma control with the minimum dose of corticosteroid.